Photography Laws, Copyright and Trespass

Photographers need to know where we stand in relation to copyright and trespass laws. It isn’t that there are specific photography laws or regulations covering photography. UK law operates more on the basis of what you are not allowed to do, rather than declaring rights in a constitution.

The truth is there is little in the way of restrictions enshrined in law when it comes to photography in a public place.

As a rule of thumb, providing you have permission (if on private property) or you are photographing the subject whilst on public land (as well as the subject you are photographing is on public land) then there should be no photography restrictions. You may encounter problems with trepass if you are on private land, or land that has restricted access

The problem is, photographers are being challenged more and more by police, security guards, and members of the public. Street photographers may encounter this more and more. However it is said that if you appear to be covertly taking pictures, this may lead others to suspect you’re up to no good. Even then, that is not enough to stop you making work.

I have been looking around to see whether I could find some extra information on this and found these resources.

Artlaw LogoUK Photographers Rights Resources

Artlaw has an archive of legal articles related to visual artists. There is some comprehensive information about copyright for artists and they have a Q&A service that will answer questions of you cannot find the information you want there. Check out the article on Copyright before 1989 and check the section on Current Copyright Legislation.

Simon Moran hosts a great resource on UK photographers rights. Written by a legal expert and presented as an A4 document that can be printed double sided and carried around with you it is a good reference of the salient relative laws relating to photography.

Will Burrard Lucas has written a brief article outlaying his view of UK Photographic Copyright.

These are just some of the material online relating to copyright, trespass laws and photographers rights with relation to public photography restrictions. When I find some more I will post them here.

Morlene Fisher

10 comment(s)

I’ve been hearing a lot of discussion on this topic lately. I am glad you brought it up and I am looking forward to hearing more about it! Thanks for sharing the links too!

A recent case in the Queens Bench Division before Mr Justice McCombe on 22nd May 2008 has reference. In dismissing a claim for a judicial review by one Andrew Wood. His Lordship held that the taking and retention of photographs by the Police of the claimantwas not an infringement of the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. There were no English cases dealing with the retention of photographic material by the police but the English courts at the highest level had adopted a very robust approach to the question of interference with artice 8 rights. Bearing those rights in mind, there had been no interference with the claimants rights. This is the “bare bones” of the matter. i suggest you do your own research.

Hi, I’m glad you brought this up and in fact i was quite unsure of the guideline on photography rights in my country.. By the way, how about photography in shopping malls, or taking close-up pictures of perfect strangers in the street? Any comment, please?

..I thought I would check out the current position
in regards to photographing new architecture, I was absorbed in the glass and geometry of a new build
business park and was actually threatened with the police by a security guard who left a nearby building to confront me. I was astounded, no prohibitive notices, no barbed wire and I wasn’t even on the grass. I pointed out I was actually promoting positive images of the north east – to no avail…drive off pete..professionals style, else new year in court- unbelievable

That is strong Cate, were you on public land when you were attempting to photograph the building? Some building are protected by copyright and if the land you were on is deemed private then it is possible this is why you were confronted. However check out, which spells out some of the things you should know about if you are confronted by the police. Unless you’re causing an obstruction or are on private land you should be well within your rights to take a picture. Also check out which spells out more about the law with regards to photography in public places. Hope this helps

2 questions.
if i take a picture on someone elses camera do i as the creater of the image have the copy right

i if employed by a company as a general worker and i take a picture at work on my personal camera do i have the copy right or does my employer

My girlfriend and I recently did a photoshoot in a private club, to help an ex-friend of ours who is a professional photographer. We did it for free, no money changed hands, no contract or anything. It was purely on the understanding that we could have unrestricted copies of all the photos of us. after the shoot he refused to give us any photos and told us they were his property and he owned the copyright and he was able to do whatever he wanted with them. this is quite distressing because most of them are pretty raunchy. he has started to display them on at least 2 websites. he has since after several months given us some, but they have so many restrictions on them we cannot use them. any ideas where we stand legally please.

What is the case of taking general photography say in a Garden Centre, which is open to the public, are they the same restrictions as being on private land?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *